Labor senator and former TWU national president Alex Gallacher has died aged 67 after an almost two-year battle with lung cancer.
The former aviation ramp operator was also a TWU official and branch secretary before becoming elected to the upper house in 2010, representing SA.
He died on Sunday and is survived by his wife Paola as well as his children Caroline, Ian, Terry and Frank.
The union’s current national secretary, Michael Kaine, called him a straight-talking “giant” who spoke truth to power to support workers.
“Alex was someone on whom workers could always rely and was resolute in his belief that no obstacle should prevent working people from achieving their best,” said Kaine. “We are all poorer for having lost Alex.”
The TWU said Alex Gallacher, who was also a truck driver, never forgot the unique challenges transport workers face every day.
“His passionate advocacy for safety and fairness in transport rang around the Senate, and he did not hold back when calling out the appalling abuse of workers,” said the TWU.
“Alex was a staunch advocate for transport workers. He fought tirelessly for truck drivers to receive safe rates of pay and conditions and was no doubt proud to have been part of the Senate’s landmark report into the road transport industry tabled only last week. Alex was dogged in his determination to see improvements to the industry that kept Australia moving.
“Alex never shied away from a fight, particularly when he saw workers ripped off or mistreated by their employers. Even in poor health, Alex supported aviation workers in their fight against their deplorable treatment last year.
“Alex was a regular attendee at actions outside Parliament House and always welcomed workers into his office with open arms.”
Labor leader Anthony Albanese said Gallacher dedicated his life to the interests of working people, while finance minister Simon Birmingham, the most senior South Australian in government, added Gallacher was proudly in the old-school Labor mould.
“Whilst he may have been born a Scot, Alex made Australia home and always worked hard to advance the interests of South Australia and his fellow Australians,” he said.
The Senate adjourned early on Monday afternoon in a mark of respect.